Parting ways with the Okanagan Landing Fire Department has revealed deep political divisions.
The Morning Star has learned that a recent Vernon council decision to not renew a fire service agreement with the Okanagan Landing Firefighters Association was not unanimous. In fact, the vote was 4-3.
“We should have renegotiated the contract,” said Coun. Bob Spiers, adding that the Landing association provided an efficient level of service.
“That was the best way to go. If it’s not broke, don’t fix it.”
Besides Spiers, opposition came from Councillors Patrick Nicol and Mary-Jo O’Keefe.
“They are treasured volunteers and I didn’t believe the process was as transparent as it could have been in their ability to react,” said Coun. Patrick Nicol.
Council’s decision was made in private with Vernon Fire Department administration, and the Landing association was informed after.
“They felt blind-sided,” said Nicol, adding that there have been efforts in recent years to bring the Landing hall under the leadership of the downtown hall.
“Things were working fine until there was an attempt to put full-time (paid) firefighters in that hall and this is a continuation of that debate.”
But those council members who support not renewing the contract defend their actions.
“With the level of training, we want it to be more uniform,” said Coun. Catherine Lord.
“It makes sense to be part of our training group. The two have been butting heads and that can be a danger out there.”
Coun. Brian Quiring says all firefighters should be administered the same no matter if they are in the Landing or in the downtown hall.
“We need them to be under the direction of the (Vernon) fire chief,” said Quiring.
“The gap between them and us is too large with training and protocol. The chief didn’t even have a key to the hall.”
All members of the Landing association have been invited to join the Vernon Volunteer Firefighters Association, which operates out of the downtown hall.
The Landing association was formed in 1975 and it has provided a contract service to the city since Okanagan Landing joined Vernon in 1993.
Okanagan Landing firefighters met with city administration Tuesday night to discuss the transition and the city’s plans.
“They are asking questions and I hope they get open and honest answers,” said Nicol.